Badminton, a perennial family favorite because its soft shuttlecock is safe for young children, has a distinguished history. Players of "ti jian zi" in fifth century China tried to keep a shuttlecock in the air without using their hands; other types of shuttlecock games were played in India and early modern Europe. The modern version was invented at a party hosted by eighth Duke of Beaufort in 1863 in his mansion in Badminton, England, when guests moved a shuttlecock game indoors to the Great Hall because of rain. An Olympic sport since 1992, badminton can be relaxed family fun or an intense aerobic workout.
Great Hall to Regulation Court
Badminton uses a rectangular court approximately the size of the Duke of Beaufort's Great Hall, where it was originally played. A regulation-size badminton court is 1,620 square feet, including a playing area marked off by white lines and five-foot clearance on all sides. The outside lines delimit the 20-by-44-foot doubles court; inside those lines are the ones marking off the narrower 17-by-44-foot singles court. The five-foot high net bisects the court. Each side of the net is further subdivided with long and short service lines and right and left half courts.
Badminton rackets are lightweight; no more than 680 millimeters -- or slightly over 2 feet -- long; with an oval stringed head, or hitting surface, of no more than 280 millimeters in length and 220 millimeters in width -- or approximately 11 by 8 inches. The head of a racket is a flat area crossed by equally spaced strings.
Plastic Goose Feathers
The shuttlecock, or "shuttle," consists of 16 feathers attached to a leather-covered cork base, or a modern synthetic equivalent. According to Badminton Village lore, the best shuttles use the left wing feathers of a goose. Game regulations specify that the feathers of the shuttle, whether natural or synthetic, should extend 62 to 70 millimeters from the base with their tips forming a circle between 58 and 68 millimeters in diameter. Shuttles weigh between 4.74 and 5.50 grams.
Shuttling Back and Forth
You play badminton by using a racket to hit a shuttle over the net. Badminton matches consist of three games each consisting of 21 points. A point starts with the server hitting the shuttle over the net. The receiver tries to hit the shuttle back over the net, and the players continue hitting the shuttle back and forth across the net without letting it touch the ground. A point ends when the shuttle touches the ground, is hit into the net or is hit outside the bounds of the court. The two main versions of the game are singles, with one player on each side of the court, or doubles, with two players on each side.